Preview: Manchester United to up fitness levels against Derby County

Derby County -v- Manchester United

Pre-Season 2021/22

Pride Park, Derby

Sunday 18 July 2021, KO 13:00 BST

Manchester United start their pre-season campaign against Derby County at Pride Park on Sunday afternoon. It will be the first pre-season campaign since the summer of 2019 when United faced Perth Glory and Leeds United in Perth, Australia, Inter Milan in Singapore, Tottenham Hotspur in Shanghai, Kristiansund in Oslo, Norway and AC Milan in Cardiff, Wales. United played just one pre-season match last summer, losing to Aston Villa at Villa Park a week before their season started. This did not help United prepare for the new season, which started poorly for United as they were beaten three times, drawing once and winning twice in three opening six matches. However, the season ended on a better note than it started.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be seeking to get something started for his team this summer, getting the majority of the team fit and ready to face Leeds United at Old Trafford in the opening Premier League match which will be played on Saturday 14 August 2021 at 12:30. Because of Euro 2020 and the Copa America, which were both delayed from last summer, Solskjaer will be without many of his first team players for this match, including David De Gea, Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Daniel James, Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani, plus Eric Bailly and Amad Diallo will be representing the Ivory Coast at the Olympics in Tokyo this summer.

Nathan Bishop, Lee Grant, Matej Kovar, Dean Henderson and Tom Heaton – Manchester United website

A summer of changes but a first pre-season match with fringe players and youth is exciting…

This summer, there will be many changes to the United squad with Jadon Sancho waiting to be announced as a United player and moves for both Raphaël Varane and Kieran Trippier hotting up in the background. With speculation linking Paul Pogba to Paris Saint-Germain, United have also been linked to Houssem Aouar this summer, but it is expected that a move for a defensive minded instead as that would be a position that would allow the formation to be changed with United playing a more attacking brand of football next season. That said, there is still a lot of time in the summer transfer window for anything to happen and the fact that Sancho, Varane and Trippier seem likely would be the start of a good summer for United.

During the course of the week, there have been many players training ahead of the first pre-season match of the summer. New goalkeeper signing Tom Heaton is expected to make an appearance for United, but also Lee Grant, Dean Henderson, Nathan Bishop and Matej Kovar have been readying themselves too. In defence, Alex Telles, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe, Will Fish and Teden Mengi have been involved. In midfield, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Facundo Pellistri, Nemanja Matic, James Garner, Di’Shon Bernard, Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbri, Ethan Galbraith and in attack, Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, Anthony Elanga, Joe Hugill were all pictured, which could make for an exciting mix of players for this first pre-season match.

Andreas Pereira, Juan Mata, Will Fish, Axel Tuanzebe and Alex Telles – Manchester United website

Previous meetings with Derby County and their Manchester United connections…

United and Derby have met many times in the history of both clubs with a total of 108 competitive matches between the two clubs. United have won 47 times, drawing 29 times with Derby taking the victory 32 times. United last met Derby in the Emirates FA Cup back in March 2020 with Solskjaer’s side winning 3-0 with goals scored by Luke Shaw and a brace from Odion Ighalo, who has now left the club. Derby beat United in the prior match, which was in the Carabao Cup, a 2-2 draw with Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini both scoring but losing 8-7 on penalties after Sergio Romero was sent off and Lee Grant making his competitive debut for the club. Phil Jones saw his penalty saved, which was the end of the road for United in the competition that season.

Wayne Rooney is currently the manager of Derby and has been at the club since August 2019, after returning from the MLS side DC United. Rooney was a player coach but was not eligible to play until January 2020. He was made the interim manager of the Championship club following the sacking of Phillip Cocu. On the 15 January 2021, Rooney retired as a player, focusing on managing Derby for the remainder of the season. His side evaded relegation on the final day of the 2020/21 season, keeping the club in the Championship for at least another season. Derby currently have former United player Tom Lawrence at the club and Teden Mengi was on loan there last season, with the club wanting him again. Ravel Morrison is currently training with Derby.

Joe Hugill, Ethan Galbraith, Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood and Shola Shoretire – Manchester United website

Predicted Starting XI: Juan Mata to captain United, Mason Greenwood to spearhead United’s attack, flanked by Anthony Elanga and Facundo Pellistri?

Solskjaer has few options at this stage of the pre-season campaign, which is an exciting prospect. Of course, this stage of the summer is not about winning, it is about fitness and unlike last season, United will be seeking to make some waves ahead of the Premier League opener against Leeds United at the Theatre of Dreams. With both Euro 2020 and the Copa America seeing many senior players out of action with all missing the first match, but others coming back in dribs and drabs between now and the final two pre-season matches, giving some promising youth players some involvement ahead of prospective loan spells away from the club or getting ready for the U18 and U23 seasons starting.

The squad for this match has been prepared based on the players who have been seen in training earlier in the week. It is quite possibly a fact that more players will have been present, but were not photographed for whatever reason. Solskjaer will have a number of players heading to Derby for Sunday’s clash and hopefully the likes of Hannibal Mejbri, Alvaro Fernandez, Ethan Laird, Zidane Iqbal, Isak Hansen and Joe Hugill could have some involvement. United had 23 players training earlier in the week, so that might end up being the squad, however, in that group of players was five goalkeepers, which might be a bit much so some outfield players will need to be added to the squad so there can be many changes, allowing all players time on the pitch.

Michael Carrick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Manchester United website

Match Prediction: Pre-season is not about winning – it is all about fitness and after last season’s preparation, United will be doing things properly.

Both United and Derby will be looking at this fixture in the same manner – being about fitness than winning. See football supporters expect United to win every match they play, even in pre-season, which seems a bit weird. There will be supporters at Pride Park on Sunday, both home and away and it will be good to see something like that after the past 19 months, which has seen the majority of matches played behind closed doors. It will be good to see club football make it’s return after Euro 2020 and the first pre-season campaign in two years, which should see a majority squad of youth players get some minutes under their belt. Obviously it would be great if United won and many players put their names in lights.

Rooney and Solskjaer will be looking to see the best of their squads, at least the players that they have available for the match on Sunday and the supporters, for both sides, will be looking to make a noise in the stadium and show the players that they are still there to support them. As fitness is the main part of these matches, both managers will be seeking to get at least 60 minutes out of some players to get the prepared for the new season. United will have more first team players available for later matches this summer, with some returning before the clash with Queens Park Rangers. The majority of the squad will be available for the final two matches – against Preston North End (away) and Everton (home).

Derby County 0-3 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.